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Third base is generally a fun place for fantasy owners to shop. When you examine the Top 24 bats in 5×5 value for 2018, you’ll find seven guys on the third base bag. And the most ballyhooed prospect in all the land is also third-base eligible.
We’re not going to get much speed here, that’s standard — only Jose Ramirez had more than 14 swipes last year. But you can get plenty of power (six 30-homer guys, 10 more in the 20s), quality average, and heavy run production from this post. In a best-case scenario, your utility corner will probably be a third baseman over a first baseman.
Given Jose Ramirez’s poor second half, I’m going with Nolan Arenado at the top of the corner board. Arenado simply doesn’t have bad seasons, in part helped by the float of Coors Field. He’s been a Top 5 MVP guy for three years running, and here’s his average season over the last four: .297/.358/..573, 40 homers, 126 RBIs, 104 runs. Yeah, you’ll have to fetch speed later, fine. I’ll start considering Arenado at the No. 3 or No. 4 overall slot.
Which third baseman is a strong buy for the 2019 fantasy season?
Scott: It’s not like anyone needs much of a push for Kris Bryant, but I want you to appreciate that his current ADP is an isolated opportunity. He had a .280/.383/.481 slash before a shoulder injury pushed him to the DL in late June; he was a .256/.356/.416 banjo hitter (with just four homers) in the 36 games after his return. Bryant is hale now, and sometimes falling into the third round; please, jump all over this. The upside for his age-27 season is another MVP run, and the downside is probably the fine line we saw in 2017.
If you want a cheaper option, I’ll approve Johan Camargo for the late rounds. His .272/.349/.457 slash with 19 home runs in 131 games would normally push him into obvious fantasy relevance, but there’s a logjam in Atlanta — Josh Donaldson arrived in the offseason. The Braves want Camargo in a super-utility role, which sounds like a curse but could be a gift — almost any field-player injury in Atlanta would likely lead to Camargo having a spot of his own. Camargo was my 27th-round pick (selection 397) in the recent LABR Mixed Draft.
Dalton: Miguel Sano’s stock is down coming off a disappointing season in which a trip to the minors and injuries limited him to just 71 games. He’s yet to stay heathy for a full season in MLB and strikes out a lot, but Sano is one season removed from a .264-75-28-77 campaign in just 114 games, when the 24-year-old finished in the top one percent of the league in exit velocity. He’s an afterthought at draft tables right now, but THE BAT projects Sano to hit 31 homers with 84 RBI even with his annual 20+ games missed factored in, and there’s upside for more given his age. He even showed up to Twins camp in shape this year.
Andy: Rafael Devers was a notable disappointment in 2018, coming off such a promising partial season for Boston the prior year (58 G, 10 HR, .820 OPS). Let’s just try to remember that he only turned 22 years old in October. There’s plenty of development ahead for Devers. Also, for what it’s worth, he’s a member of this spring’s best-shape-of-his-life club. Devers does his hitting in a terrific lineup, he’s just a year removed from mashing 30 homers at three levels and he’s already demonstrated the ability to hit for average. With an ADP outside the top 120 picks, he offers extreme profit potential.
Conversely, who do you think will be a fantasy bust at the position?
Dalton: Matt Chapman is one of the better young players in baseball, but his fantasy value has become a bit overrated thanks in part to his outstanding defense and a big second half last season that was inflated by a .371 BABIP (despite his Hard% actually decreasing from before the All-Star Break). Put in nerdy baseball terms – the difference between Chapman’s wOBA and xwOBA ranked bottom-20 last season, so it’s safe to expect a step back in 2019. Don’t forget it wasn’t long ago he hit .234 his rookie year, he doesn’t run at all, and he’s returning from offseason shoulder and thumb surgeries.
Andy: There’s obviously a lot to like about Justin Turner, a veteran with terrific on-base skills and 20-plus homer power. He’ll hit in a privileged position in an excellent batting order, too. However, he’s also an aging player (34) for whom injuries are an absolute certainty; he appeared in just 103 games last season and 130 the year before. Turner has clearly arrived at a stage in his career in which he’s a high-maintenance fantasy asset, likely to receive plenty of off-days between visits to the injured list. He can still help your fake roster, no question, but you have to assume you’ll need a seat-filler for 40-60 games.
Scott: Four years ago, Maikel Franco gave us a delicious .280/.343/.497 slash in half of a season, with 14 homers. We’ve been chasing that ever since. Franco is part of a loaded Philly lineup but that cuts both ways — he slotted sixth and seventh for most of last year, and there’s no way that’s rising with the current roster in play. If you’re good with his three-year scan, which calls for a .250 average and 20-25 homers, fine. Just don’t bake upside into his cost; if something special was going to happen, we probably would have seen it by now.
Let’s look ahead. Which third base prospect do you think will have an impact in 2019?
Andy: At this position, there’s simply no doubt as to who, exactly, is the game’s top prospect. It’s this dude right here…
Yeah, we think Vladimir Guerrero Jr. might just have an impact. He’s the consensus No. 1 prospect in baseball, coming off a season in which he slashed an insane .381/.437/.636 across multiple levels at age 19 (including .402/.449/.671 at Double-A). Toronto is likely to play the stash-and-wait game with Vlad Jr., because baseball’s terrible service time rules demand it. But we’ll see him soon enough. Draft and enjoy.
Dalton: The No. 2 pick from the 2016 draft, Nick Senzel dealt with an injury-shortened season last year, although he hit well when he did play (.310/.378/.509 over 141 at-bats in Triple-A). A consensus top-10 prospect in baseball, Senzel may open the season in the minors due to service time issues, but the pure hitter is going to rake whenever he’s called up to Cincinnati, and the team has plans to make him their new centerfielder. Great American Ballpark has boosted homers for RHB by 17 percent over the last three seasons, which is fourth-most in MLB over that span, and Senzel can steal 10-15 bases as well, so he’s in the Rookie of the Year mix.
Scott: Baby Vlad and Senzel are clearly the two best options here, so I’m not going to rehash those guys. If you’re looking at a long-term prospect, we introduce Ke’Bryan Hayes of Pittsburgh. His growth in Double-A last year (.293/.375/.444) was partially muted by the pitching tilt of the Eastern League. He eventually could be a Scott Rolen clone in the majors, a Gold-Glove contender who should hit for average and reasonable pop. Hayes is the son of former MLB regular Charlie Hayes, but the kid is going to eclipse dad’s career in the long run. Look for Hayes in 2020, unless the Pirates surprisingly contend this summer.